Even with the 2015 regular season yet to officially begin, injuries are already commonplace across the NFL slate—and consequentially in the world of fantasy football as owners figure out their Week 1 starters.
The primary goal for all 32 teams through the preseason is to get all of their players through healthy, which never happens. The injury bug has already ended seasons of impact players before they even began, and other nagging issues have head coaches and fantasy owners alike in a bind as opening weekend approaches.
Alas, players who picked up knocks during training camp or the preseason are returning to practice in full force as they get ready for Week 1—well, some of them. It’s a case-by-case basis regarding said players, so let’s break down below which injured playmakers should start and sit.
Making the Call on Top Injured Players
Injury information provided by ESPN.com.
Start: Bears WR Alshon Jeffery
The injury bug couldn’t have hit the Chicago Bears receiving corps at a worse time. Already trying to replace Brandon Marshall, the Bears have lost rookie Kevin White to a shin injury while Marquess Wilson and Eddie Royal are both listed as questionable.
Naturally, emerging star Alshon Jeffery has been impacted as well with a calf injury that kept him out of practice for nearly four weeks—virtually all of the preseason. Fortunately for Chicago, Jeffery returned to practice Wednesday, per ESPN.com’s Jeff Dickerson, and said he “felt pretty good.” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport added more:
Jeffery’s role in the Bears offense as the No. 1 go-to receiver makes him a must-start option in virtually any matchup that he’s well enough to play in. But that’s even truer than in Week 1, when Chicago goes up against a Green Bay Packers secondary that conceded the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts in ESPN leagues last year.
Don’t leave the former South Carolina playmaker on your bench if he’s going to suit up Sunday—which looks like a mere formality.
Sit: Rams RB Tre Mason
In the same vein as the Bears receiving corps, the St. Louis Rams could ill afford another injury to their backfield with Todd Gurley already ruled out for Week 1. To make matters worse, second-year rusher Tre Mason is questionable for Week 1 with a hamstring issue.
After missing yet another practice on Wednesday, there’s still no telling what Mason’s status will be for Sunday as head coach Jeff Fisher shared that he’s a game-time decision, per Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com:
Even if he’s somehow able to play, don’t expect much of an impact from Mason. The Rams face the daunting Seattle Seahawks defense in Week 1, which held them to just 42 rushing yards on 19 attempts in their season-ending 2014 matchup.
Expect a bigger workload for Benny Cunningham in Week 1, but the Rams backfield shouldn’t put up many fantasy points anyway.
Start: Bills RB LeSean McCoy
The Buffalo Bills have seemingly dodged a major bullet before the season has even begun. Star running back LeSean McCoy, recently acquired over the offseason in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, has progressed from his injury to the point where head coach Rex Ryan is confident he’ll play, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter:
A lack of preseason reps shouldn’t be much of a concern for McCoy, one of the league’s more experienced backs who knows what to expect when he steps onto the field. The Bills don’t have much going on in the passing game, but are committed to pounding the rock behind their new workhorse.
Add to that the fact that he’s going up against an Indianapolis Colts squad that conceded 18.1 points per game to opposing running backs in ESPN leagues last season, and McCoy should have a big debut for Buffalo.
Sit: Giants WR Victor Cruz
Wide receiver Victor Cruz just can’t catch a break. Finally back to full strength from a knee injury that derailed his 2014 season, Cruz has been sidelined for three weeks with a calf injury that head coach Tom Coughlin admitted was “very hard to get over,” per ESPN.com’s Kieran Darcy.
Per Darcy, Cruz was held out of practice Wednesday—a telling sign that he’s just not ready to suit up yet. On top of the fact that he’s coming back from a long recovery period following a different injury, the New York Giants shouldn’t be rushing to get him back on the field.
There’s breakout potential for Cruz or another Giants receiver—cough, Odell Beckham Jr.—for Week 1 as New York plays the Dallas Cowboys’ struggling secondary, but not if the proper players don’t get on the field.
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